Burress will return, but not to New York
FRI, JAN 28
8:12 AM CST
WR Plaxico Burress
If Michael Vick
can go from one of the biggest pariahs in sports history not too long ago to a shoe-in for Comeback Player of the Year this season, then perhaps another ex-con will be in he running for that sometimes-dubious award in 2011.
Former Giants receiver Plaxico Burress is scheduled to be released from prison June 6 provided he gets credit time for good behavior and, like Vick, plans to resume his NFL career as soon as possible.
“I am not a big advocate of making predictions on teams because so much can change, but I am not afraid to make the following prediction: Plaxico Burress will be playing in 2011,” said his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, on Thursday’s episode of “Inside the NFL” on Showtime. “And he will play very well. And it will be a very happy ending to a very tough, tough story for him.”
As you no doubt remember, Burress was sentenced to two years behind bars for an incident in which he brought a gun to a Manhattan nightclub, tucked it in the waistband of his sweatpants and accidentally shot himself in the leg.
Vick, who went away for his involvement in a gruesome dog-fighting operation, signed with the Eagles in 2009 as a backup to then-starting quarterback Donovan McNabb, with McNabb personally advocating the move. After McNabb was cast out of town to the rival Redskins before the 2010 campaign, Vick was again slated to be nothing more than a reserve, this time behind Kevin Kolb. However, once Vick got his opportunity to play, he bettered his career passer rating by 20 points, up to 100.2 from 80.2, and reclaimed his spot as perhaps the most dangerous throwing-and-running dual threat the game has ever seen.
But he had to leave Atlanta to make it happen, as there was no way Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who adored Vick from the moment he arrived in 2001, could handle the inevitable public backlash had he re-employed a convicted dog killer.
As for Burress, not only does it make no sense from a PR standpoint for the Giants to welcome him back with open arms, but they have no need for an aging wideout that already seemed to be trending downward before he got fitted for stripes.
Quarterback Eli Manning threw for 4,000-plus yards in each of the last two seasons without Burress, even though the 6-5, 232-pounder was his No. 1 option from 2005-08 and caught the game-winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLII. Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Steve Smith form one of the most productive trios of pass catchers in the league when healthy. Plus, there may still be hope for 2009 third-round pick Ramses Barden, a 6-6, 227-pound freak of an athlete from Cal Poly.
Provided he can work his way back into football shape at 33 years old, Burress can still be a possession target and red-zone weapon, but he’ll certainly be doing it away from the bright lights of the Big Apple.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Giants, visit TheGiantsBeat.com
North team exciting, South team boring
WED, JAN 26
6:31 PM CST
What has become stunningly clear during Senior Bowl workouts is that nobody from the NFL put together a rough draft of what each practice should look like, as the morning workouts for the North team could not be any more different from the afternoon sessions for the South.
Marvin Lewis and his coaching staff from the Bengals are handling the North squad, and it’s been fun to watch and full of energy all week long. Players are getting after it during positional work, and then team drills like 9-on-7, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 have all been chock full of great highlights. Quite frankly, it has the look and feel of a professional practice.
On the other hand, Chan Gailey and his coaching staff from the Bills have been going about their business with the South squad in a much more laissez-faire fashion, spending an excrutiating amount of time on teaching and putting less of an emphasis on reps. The capper was Wednesday’s focus on special teams, specifically the kickoff team running at maybe half speed -- against no return team, no less -- in order to perfect lane assignments.
In terms of actual talent on the roster, the South team is probably superior. However, when it comes to being coached up and ready to play Saturday, the North team will no doubt be better prepared. Sure, the final score is completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but expect the North to have a firmer grasp on the pro-style playbook they’ve had only a few days to digest.
At least we know the South will be well rested.
From an evaluator's standpoint -- coaches, scouts and media alike -- everyone scribbles feverishly into notebooks for the entirety of each North practice. But when the South takes the field, most observers are standing around waiting for something to happen. It’s a great time to cruise the facility and catch up with old friends in the business, or maybe make some new ones along the way.
In the end, if you’re reading a sizable amount of content on Washington quarterback Jake Locker and Co. from the North, all the while wondering why nobody knows if Alabama’s Greg McElroy, Florida State’s Christian Ponder or TCU’s Andy Dalton is the best QB from the South, now you know why.
If this is the way Gailey runs a standard Bills practice, it’s all the more understandable how they started the 2010 campaign 0-8 before finishing 4-12.
For all the notes and quotes on the Bills, visit BuffaloFootballReport.com
North team hoarding top QBs in Mobile
TUE, JAN 25
6:56 PM CST
QB Colin Kaepernick
If the game of football at the NFL level is ultimately won and lost at the quarterback position, then expect the North to handle the South in Saturday's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
After two practices each for the North and South teams, it has become apparent to most everyone in attendance that the three best signal callers on hand for the event are, in alphabetical order, Colin Kaepernick of Nevada, Jake Locker of Washington and Ricky Stanzi of Iowa. While Alabama's Greg McElroy was pretty strong in Monday's workout for the South, he didn't look much better Tuesday than the yo-yo jobs put together by TCU's Andy Dalton and Florida State's Christian Ponder through two days of evaluation. According to Scout.com director of scouting Scott Kennedy, "All three of them were the same guy."
Kaepernick is the most difficult of the North passers to judge so far, as he's oozing with athletic ability at about 6-5 and 225 pounds, but don't mistake athletic ability with good footwork. It also takes some time for him to get rid of the ball, really cocking his arm back before finally pulling the trigger.
Locker, on the other hand, has a compact stroke that allows him to get the ball out of his hand quickly, and he's got enough arm to make all the throws scouts want to see. But it's increasingly obvious that he should have entered the draft as a junior, when he was a shoe-in for a top-five selection and in the conversation for No. 1 overall.
Stanzi is exactly as he was advertised during his time as a Hawkeye, and that is having the look of a classic drop-back passer that can stand tall in the pocket and deliver the ball with authority. However, when you combine questionable decision-making with a tendency to be erratic, that leads to a lot of inaccurate throws bouncing at the receiver's feet or, much worse, in the waiting arms of a defensive back.
Especially during Tuesday’s practice for the South, the trio of McElroy, Dalton and Ponder took turns being the best of the bunch one minute and the worst of the bunch the next.
And, as tends to be the case, since the sexiest prospects at the game’s most important position are all juniors, the Senior Bowl broadcast won’t turn on as many televisions had Blaine Gabbert of Missouri, Cam Newton of Auburn and Ryan Mallett of Arkansas been a part of the proceedings.
The Panthers, who own of the top pick in April's draft, likely won't be looking for their quarterback of the future this week at Ladd Peebles Stadium.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Panthers, visit PantherInsider.com
Fair or not, QB's toughness questioned
MON, JAN 24
11:02 AM CST
QB Jay Cutler
Bears fans waited more than half a century to get a franchise quarterback, but now they don't know if the one they gave up so much to get and paid so handsomely almost immediately upon his arrival can be trusted to perform when he’s needed the most.
Jay Cutler suffered a knee injury at some point Sunday during the second quarter of the NFC Championship Game, which contributed to Green Bay capturing the George Halas Trophy and now making arrangements for Super Bowl XLV. The former first-round pick tried to give it a go in the third quarter, but he departed after a three-and-out and never again entered the huddle. Following two disastrous series by veteran backup Todd Collins, it was third stringer Caleb Hanie that directed a pair of touchdown drives and gave Chicago a chance to force overtime in the final period, but a desperation heave on fourth-and-5 with a minute to go ended up in the hands of Packers cornerback Sam Shields.
The Twitter world was ablaze in the second half, with Pro Bowl performers like Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew and Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett sitting at home questioning Cutler's toughness. Cutler's biggest adversary during his Bronco days, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, forever became a legend when he played -- and played well -- in a postseason game with a torn knee ligament. And while Hanie, linebacker Brian Urlacher and coach Lovie Smith all stood at the podium after the loss and professed their teammate to be one of the toughest SOBs they've ever met, Cutler is all but guaranteed to spend his offseason listening to Bears fans wonder if one of their captains quit on them with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Cutler did finally talk to reporters after the game, doing so in front of his locker instead of in the interview room, which is his usual routine, but the only member of the media apparently permitted to ask him anything was the sideline reporter for the Chicago Bears Network -- essentially a team employee that has been conditioned to lob a steady diet of softballs.
Remember when the 6-3, 226-pounder was originally dealt, and Urlacher was accused of calling his new quarterback a (nickname for cat) when hanging out with former Bears receiver Bobby Wade in Las Vegas? That’s what a fair amount of the football world is calling Cutler today.
And the loudest voices are in the Windy City, the very town that has tried so hard to embrace him. Even if Cutler was legitimately injured and couldn’t continue, Dick Butkus would have rubbed some dirt on it. Walter Payton, too. At least that's what the callers into Chicago sports talk radio stations will be saying ad nauseum. Hosts better keep one finger on the dump button at all times.
Cutler was a Bears fan himself growing up in Santa Claus, Indiana, so he should know what’s coming.
UPDATE: According to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times, Cutler sprained his MCL and the team is determining the extent of the injury.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Bears, visit BearReport.com
|John Crist is an NFL Analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.|